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Saturnalia (Marcus Didius Falco #18)

4.05  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,633 Ratings  ·  95 Reviews
It is the Roman holiday of Saturnalia. Marcus Didius Falco and Helena have returned from Greece only to find that Helena’s brother Justinus’s marital problems have exploded. Justinus’s first love, Veleda, a tribal leader and prophetess from Germania, has been brought to Rome and put under house arrest pending a ritual sacrifice at her capturer’s Triumph.

Justinus is love-s
Hardcover, 284 pages
Published March 6th 2007 by Century (first published 2007)
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2nd out of 91 books — 5 voters
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Roman Mysteries Series
24th out of 63 books — 26 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,490)
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The Library Lady
How can you go wrong with a book that features a guy dressed up as a 5 foot high carrot at the Roman equivalent of a police precinct's Christmas party?
This is the 18th of the Falco books. But if you picked this one up and had never read any of the previous books, my guess is after reading it you'd want to go back and read the previous 17. And for those of us who have been Falcophiles for years, this is pure delight.
Christian Rodska does a good narration, but like most male narrators, he doesn't
Jun 04, 2008 itpdx rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another fun Falco mystery. This is set in Rome and was particularly fun for me to read, as I am just back from Rome. It is fun to try to visualize the forum including the various temples mentioned in the book as it must have been in AD76. And to know how far it is across the forum and up Aventine Hill. I really enjoy how Lindsey Davis includes information on the Saturnalia celebrations, slavery, homelessness, the various practices of medicine, and other aspects 1st century Rome as part of the st ...more
May 18, 2010 John rated it liked it
Shelves: pulp-novels
This series by Lindsey Davis is one of the benign guilty pleasures in my library. I have read all of her books that follow her protagonist Marcus Didius Falco as he solves crimes in ancient Rome. These fun romps are in an interesting setting with just a smattering of historical gloss to keep me grounded in the time period. Written in a style that is closest to the TV sribblers who created Dragnet the plot moves along rapidly with enough twists and turns to remain interesting. A line like, "the ...more
Mar 08, 2015 Libri-Diligo rated it really liked it
Lindsey Davis finally lets MDF remain in Rome, and the outcome yields a much better read than the prior few installments. Unless you've read the complete series until now, some of the characters' actions and allusions to other scenes may be hard to follow. My main disappointment was in reading the author comments afterwards - I don't understand why some British authors feel the need to disparage the intelligence of their American audience.
Jan 04, 2008 Greg rated it liked it
This is almost the 20th book in the Falco series, and it seems to be getting a little long in the tooth. All our old friends are back, and it is set in Rome, as the best of the Lindsey Davis books seem to be. A fun, light read, but I feel like I'm going through the usual motions when reading this one.
Marcus Dedius Falco is a private investigator whose life and livelihood is determined by the cases he takes. He adores his lovely independent thinking wife, Helena, who often works with him. The latest case is to find and bring a German priestess to authorities. She has escaped from the safe house where she was held and disappeared. As she vanishes a young man dies and his head placed in a pool at the house. Did she kill the young man before leaving? Falco doesn't know but he must find her to ea ...more
Rosanne Lortz
Jul 12, 2011 Rosanne Lortz rated it really liked it
Saturnalia sees the Falco family back in Rome in time for the holidays. Marcus is called in by the emperor’s minions to solve a political debacle wherein the Germanic priestess Veleda has escaped from custody (after allegedly beheading a man) and is hiding somewhere in the city of Rome. This is the same Veleda that Helena’s brother Justinus took a shine too back in The Iron Hand of Mars when he ascended her tower and convinced her to free Falco and the other Roman soldiers. Marcus must not only ...more
Joyce Lagow
Apr 20, 2010 Joyce Lagow rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
Saturnalia is the 18th in Davis' series featuring Marcus Didius Falco, a Roman private investigator during the reign of Vespasian.[return][return]The story takes place during the Roman festival of Saturnalia, originally a feast to celebrate the dedication of the Temple of Saturn on December 17 but later expanded to an entire week. It was a pretty riotous affair, with slaves exchanging places with masters (within carefully presribed limits), the giving of presents, public and private feasts, wild ...more
Feb 08, 2009 Scot rated it really liked it
This is the 18th installment in the Marcus Didius Falco mystery series but the first I ever read. The narrator/detective hero is an investigator who often works for the Emperor or other important figures in imperial Rome. The time is 76 A.D., so the emperor is Vespasian, and their December holiday of Saturnalia is just beginning. The plot involves a German warrior priestess fleeing from house arrest immediately after a Roman nobleman's head is found, minus his body, floating ominously in the atr ...more
Jan 26, 2014 Janet rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, historical
I really enjoyed listening to this. A strange combination of hard boiled detective/historical novel, set in Imperial Rome, it is part of a long running series. I have no idea how accurate the Roman part was, but it felt believable to me, with a lot of detail and research.

I often find the readers of audio books grating and intrusive, but this one did a great job giving us the character of Marcus Didius Falco. He also did respectable female voices - I'm giving this audio book an extra star just fo
Oct 31, 2015 Kirstie rated it it was ok
I have not read any of the previous books in this series but this was still readable as a stand alone novel. I enjoyed visiting Rome in its heyday and getting to know its citizens although I struggled to remember who was who as many of the names were similar and I was new to the series. I also enjoyed the story but I felt the pace was a bit laboured and the ending somewhat weak - but that's just my opinion.
Aug 05, 2007 George rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Historical Mystery Readers
Another in the Marcus Didius Falco mysteries set in December A.D. 76 Rome. This story brings back a character, German priestess who is an enemy of Rome, encounter by Falco in an earlier novel set some 10 years earlier. She has been brought to Rome and disappears and he is assigned the job of finding her along with the emperor's chief spy Anacrities. The rivalry and bad blood continues between the two as they race against each other to find the missing priestess. The case directly involves his in ...more
Jan 18, 2014 Jodi rated it it was ok
Written at the time of the ancient Roman feast of Saturnalia, this book provided plenty of cultural explanations which I enjoy--sadly that was about it. Really enjoyed the couple of other books in this series with Marcus Didius Falco our Roman equivalent to government agent. He was a rogue with a bit of charm. This time out, our character seemed to be way too cynical and hard to like. Story was weak but inventive. The opening of with the passages about the Hippocratic Oath gave the game away but ...more
Dec 27, 2015 Kristina rated it it was amazing
Brilliant as ever! And a very appropriate book to read over Christmas. The Romans celebrated Saturnalia in December each year, and it involved getting together with family (including family squabbles), giving each other presents, singing jolly songs and eating and drinking too much. Sounds familiar? It's where a lot of our Christmas traditions come from.
Jun 06, 2014 John rated it liked it
Shelves: crime-thriller
I dip into this series every couple of years and always enjoy them without ever adding them to my ever growing "must read" list. This one was slightly disappointing; all the usual well researched background is there, this time dealing with Saturnalia (obviously) but also the competing forms of Roman medicine; the humour in the protagonist's usual cynicism and the strong supporting cast. But I felt the plot was abut thin for the length of the book.
Aug 09, 2015 J.M. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Surprisingly fun.

I chose this based on its title and its cover (gasp!) only to discover that it's the 18th entry in a series of mysteries set in ancient Rome. I'd never jumped into a series so late, but that really didn't detract from my enjoyment. It stands alone fairly well. I'm not about to go back and read the other Marcus Didius Falco books, but for a while I was tempted. It has a nice, dry, British humor and the plot moves along smoothly. Coincidentally, the setting dovetails nicely with
As you'd expect with Falco this rolls along nicely. It features the return of the German Priestess / femme fatale Veleda who appeared in one of the early books. Falco is nicely unfond of Saturnalia & had I known I might have saved this for a comforting Christmas read. As ever with these books its not the destination its the journey and this one proceeds nicely through some rather gruesome murders misbehaving slaves and the demands of Falco's assorted family members
Donna Callea
Oct 02, 2014 Donna Callea rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Deck the halls with Falco

Lindsey Davis is in top form here. Her take on Saturnalia, the Roman celebration that may remind readers of another December holiday, couldn't be more enjoyable. Tis the season for Falco to demonstrate why he's our favorite ancient history crime solver.
Jan 16, 2010 Kathy rated it it was amazing
audiobook - What a guy read! Set in 79AD Rome, during Saturnalia (which later became "the Christmas season". Tough guy cynical informer Marcus Didius Falco has to track down the germanic priestess who led a rebellion, and has been captured and brought to Rome, but escaped while also competing w/ a master spy, solving the gory beheading of a Senator's son, and rescuing his hapless (married) brother-in-law who as a lad on a mission fell in love w/ the missing priestess. He is helped by his smart a ...more
Sep 01, 2007 Vicki rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mysteries
This is the 17th or 18th book in the series, I believe. I've been reading it since elementary school, I think. The main character, Marcus Didius Falco, is an "informer" in ancient Rome, which is more or less a private detective, who sometimes works for the emperor. When the series started, he was quite a young punk with a brash attitude and in pursuit of a senator's daughter, Helena Justina, who completely outclassed him. Their interaction was fantastic to read. Now, the two are settled into mar ...more
Martha Colburn
Jun 08, 2015 Martha Colburn rated it it was ok
It has been a long time since I have given a book only two stars. This is the first book I have read in the Marcus Didius Falco (ancient Roman detective) series (#18 out of twenty). It will also be the last book I read in this series. I read Lindsey Davis's stand-alone novel, Master and God, which was excellent. "Saturnalia" was anything but.
May 12, 2014 Susan rated it it was amazing
Marco and Helena have returned from Greece in time for the Roman holiday of Saturnalia.
They get involved in the marital problems of her brother Justinus as his first love - Velda - is brought to Rome as a hostage, and escapes, while leaving a corpse behind .
Katharine Harding
Jun 09, 2015 Katharine Harding rated it liked it
Enjoyed this. I like the Falco books which are set in Rome. Some interesting character development for some of the other characters.
May 11, 2013 Christina rated it really liked it
This is a fun Falco mystery. Saturnalia is approaching, and it looks like Falco will have to delay his holiday preparations to solve another case for Vespasian. Veleda, who provided plenty of trouble for Falco in Germany several years ago, is now in Rome as a prisoner. The problem is that she has escaped; that's where Falco enters the picture. There are plenty of twists and turns, resulting in a fun Falco mystery. There are some dark elements to this book, but they fit in with the Saturnalia set ...more
Nicholas Whyte[return][return]Latest in this run of detective novels set during the reign of the emperor Vespasian. After a couple of less impressive efforts in recent years, Davis seems to be firmly back on form: this is an entertaining tale of family dynamics interacting mildly with high politics - Falco is called in to track an escaped German political prisoner, who coincidentally is the former lover of his brother-in-law. Oddly enough the actual murders are the least ...more
As much as I like the Falco books, I couldn't make myself finish it now.
Nov 12, 2009 Denise rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone days of parties, feasts, drinking and fun in the ancient Roman empire. It's 76 A.D. and our Roman private eye, Marcus Didius Falco, is given an imperial commission to find an escaped German priestess, Veleda, who has been captured and brought to Rome for punishment. Family squabbles, holiday pressures, and unexpected guests all add up to a very busy holiday for our hero. Read it to the very end because the climax will surprise you. I thoroughly enjoyed it and am looking forwar ...more
Oct 07, 2015 Sheryl rated it really liked it
Good historical fiction
Mark Wilson
Dec 08, 2013 Mark Wilson rated it liked it
Pretty good entry in the series, this was #18 of 20. It resolves some old plot points, in satisfying ways, without being too "pat". Actually, that seems to be a hallmark of this series; things do not always work out as we'd like, even though they _do_ work out as desired often enough to please the reader. But many times the resolutions are just different from what I had expected, but more realistic and eventually satisfying because of that. Which is a long-winded way of saying this author is ver ...more
Sep 14, 2015 Barbara rated it it was ok
Not so good
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Lindsey Davis, historical novelist, was born in Birmingham, England in 1949. Having taken a degree in English literature at Oxford University (Lady Margaret Hall), she became a civil servant. She left the civil service after 13 years, and when a romantic novel she had written was runner up for the 1985 Georgette Heyer Historical Novel Prize, she decided to become a writer, writing at first romanti ...more
More about Lindsey Davis...

Other Books in the Series

Marcus Didius Falco (1 - 10 of 20 books)
  • The Silver Pigs (Marcus Didius Falco, #1)
  • Shadows in Bronze (Marcus Didius Falco, #2)
  • Venus in Copper (Marcus Didius Falco, #3)
  • The Iron Hand of Mars (Marcus Didius Falco, #4)
  • Poseidon's Gold (Marcus Didius Falco, #5)
  • Last Act in Palmyra (Marcus Didius Falco, #6)
  • Time to Depart (Marcus Didius Falco, #7)
  • A Dying Light in Corduba (Marcus Didius Falco, #8)
  • Three Hands in the Fountain (Marcus Didius Falco, #9)
  • Two for the Lions (Marcus Didius Falco, #10)

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